I am sailing ♫

Tuesday 19 July

I knew I was carrying those two big purple plastic buckets for a purpose – it’s the twintub washing machine the Mate finally worked out today needs to be installed on the back step (yes, you’ve realised, this is one of my most used spaces).  Really, MORE washing??

Anyway, eventually the chores were done and we had a lovely sail, no engine, actually sailing, North out of the River Roach and then weaving a path once again between sandbanks and wind farms.  71 editThe sky was cerulean blue, that sets off my beautiful white sails and red trim almost patriotically, but a smoggy heat haze hid our destination until we were almost there.  Never mind, the Mate had a lovely time flying my sails goosewinged until we turned for the final approach up the channel towards Brightlingsea, at the mouth of the River Colne.  It wasn’t the easiest anchoring in the Pyefleet Channel on the North Shore of Mersea Island, in low water springs and a headwind, and an early avoidance manoeuvre would become necessary in the morning.

There – and back

Monday 18 July

The crew decided on a change of scene today, so we motored up the River Crouch, popping in to Essex Marina to swap two bags of waste for fresh gas and water.  However, they didn’t see anywhere they wanted to stay overnight, so we headed back to the seals on another hot and sticky afternoon.  Mate felt better after supper of sticky (!) sausage casserole with brown rice, and a cool shower.

Sunday DIY

Sunday 17 July

Skipper set up his mobile workshop on my back step to fit the new parts to my baby sister’s outboard engine, much to the surprise of the local boys, who were surprised my owners seemed to be “having work done – on a Sunday”.  Frustratingly it turned out to be only a partial repair, but he also sorted out my bow navigation lights, so I’ll be visible on night passages again.  Mate was also busy in the galley, baking bread and cake as well as washing…again.  Smoked salmon and beans salad for supper by candlelight in the cockpit, as the saloon temperature was a sticky 29˚C.  We basked in a stunning sunset before the crew showered on the back step under an almost full moon.

Solving the riddle?

Saturday 16 July

An early start was necessary this morning to use the tides to help us navigate Northeast across the obstacle course of sandbanks, making the Mate think of Erskine Childers’ Riddle of the Sands, and wind farms that have sprouted like patches of forest throughout the Thames Estuary.  Once again the chart plotter came into its own, allowing the crew to steer safe courses in deeper waters.  For once the wind cooperated and we all enjoyed eleven hours’ wonderful sailing.  The sun shone and dolphins dropped by twice more.  Skipper found me a sheltered anchorage in a secluded creek, thanks again to my lifting centreboard, which means I can explore much shallower water than most boats of my size.  I found myself making new friends with a bob of seal mothers and their pups, who are 93 editedalternately curious and swim near me for a better look, and lazily sunbathing half caked in mud from their scramble out of the water.


Rest in Ramsgate

Friday 15 July

Well, mes amis, here I am, finally on the East Coast of England, new waters entirely for me and my crew.  Skipper spent the morning upside down in one of my water tanks, which have gradually silted up with aluminium dust and debris that clogs the plumbing and blocks my filters – not pleasant, believe me.  The tank was emptied, dried and vacuumed out – quite a tickle in my innards, you might say.  The Mate gave my decks a good spray down to wash off the salt the breaking waves leave behind, and then filled my tanks with 550 litres of lovely clean fresh water.  That should keep them going for a few days.

I heard talk of a bike ride to Broadstairs, which my charts tell me is just up the coast, but they chickened out when the wind increased (they’re not built for it like I am) and pulled out Bertha the shopping trolley (because you can berth-a-lot in ‘er) instead for a stroll into town for provisions.  In still warm and sunny weather they found the last of market day…and Waitrose.  There was also a lesson learnt: liveaboards needing to order spares have them sent ahead to a port they’ll reach in a few days’ time; it’s always courteous to phone the harbour office to check they’re happy to receive deliveries, and while on the phone remember to ask for the postal address, and what hours the office is open for collection of the parcel!

Dolphins off Dungeness

Thursday 14 July

The crew made an early start, and we set
P1000152off into the early morning sunshine, skirting the active firing range to round Dungeness Point with a clear view of the nuclear power station and its pair of solemn lighthouses.  The day was warm and sunny, and again dolphins swam close past us on their own journey to an unknown destination.  It must have been fairly gentle sailing, as the Mate came down to the galley to prepare lunch, and tidied up below.  She must be feeling stronger in outward muscles as well, as she hauled up my big mainsail this morning.

The crew was surprised by the lack of shipping in the vicinity of Folkestone and Dover, reputedly the busiest sea lanes in the world.  The only vessels I was aware of were a few cross-Channel ferries, but for an experienced Solent yacht like me, it was all an easy anti-climax.  Around the next headland of South Foreland the afternoon breeze almost died away, and as we were still several miles away from our destination, the Mate decided it was time to swap the genoa for the engine; yet another jump start and so a rude awakening for a dozing Skipper.  I was able to motorsail quite close into shore so my crew enjoyed good views of Deal pier and Sandwich.  We pulled into Ramsgate Marina, that was busy with boats from the Continent, the closest crew of which kindly helped my tired crew bring me safely into a finger berth with an unexpectedly short pontoon – will the Mate’s short legs allow her to step ashore?

Back to sea

Wednesday 13 July

Leaving Brighton at last, Skipper got me to execute a perfect ‘bump and run’ so Mate could return the Marina’s security key fobs to a member of staff by handing them over on the end of the new boat hook.  I didn’t even touch the pontoon.  Oh it feels good to stretch my legs and feel the sea tickling my sides again.  Up the sails went in the sunshine, and on along the coastline we cruised, clouds making shadows on the white cliffs in an ever-changing dance of dazzling white and soft grey.  I counted past each of the Seven Sisters and IMG_8525there was the red and white stripe of the Beachy Head lighthouse; another landmark ticked off.  Dolphins waved a quick hello on their way past.  As the wind started to play games with us the crew started looking for somewhere to rest overnight, and eventually dropped my anchor in what looked a promising spot in Rye Bay, just in the shelter of some cliffs.  Unfortunately for them it was also in the main path of the incoming swell, so it was a bit of a rolly sleep, punctuated by one cupboard after another shaking its contents around until padding was wedged in and relative peace restored.

Windy Brighton

Tuesday 12 July

The crew decided it was still too windy to continue the journey East, but the owners were expected back to the berth we’d borrowed (attracted by the pontoon padding), so the Marina staff asked us to move along one – not as easy as it sounds in a tricky crosswind and tidal eddies.  This took up a large chunk of the bright sunny morning, and gave me a few more scuffs on my hull – cursed skipper.  After lunch the Mate’s bike was set up so she could head into town, in a local monsoon, in search of a Waitrose to provision the galley to my usual standard.  Judging by the luggage lifted out of the panniers on her return, a bit of retail therapy snuck in there as well.  She made up for it though by giving my heads a good clean – ooohh that feels better.

Delightful visitors

Monday 11 July

Today I realised the new cushions were not for me at all, but souvenirs for two delightful young visitors who loved having the full guided tour around me inside and out, and were excited to hear of the crew’s lifestyle as liveaboards, and their plans to sail around the world.

Hitch hikers

The crew were up very early to a grey and damp morning, stowed and sorted me out for a day’s sailing, and were ready to weigh my anchor at 0630…except the engine refused to start again.  Skipper applied his usual tickle and we were off, over the infamous Bar that I now realise is just as lumpy in the wrong conditions as the crew had been warned about, and East towards Brighton.  Well, that’s what my compass was showing; visibility was about six boat lengths for most of the day – I couldn’t have told you if we were coastal cruising or crossing the Channel, but they seem to be able to navigate without any reference points.  They took me far enough offshore that the water was a bit deeper and the waves less steep, but the Mate still suffered a little of the old mal-de-mer, which gave her an excuse for an extended nap.


A couple of racing pigeons hitch-hiked on my boom; one fell off soon after they arrived and returned to its usual method of passage, but the other remained almost all the way to Brighton – tenacious creature.


Need of another jump start of my engine resulted in us overshooting the entrance to the Marina, the lookout still hampered by poor visibility, and by the time the crew had the iron sail running and the white ones down, we had to motor 1.5M back in pretty big waves, the wind blowing straight onto the shoreline. Mate, on the helm, glanced back to see a wave the height of her shoulder bearing down on us, but of course I merely let it lift us up, slid over the top and on we went.  She brought us very smoothly into the sheltered waters of the entrance channel, and as it turns out this is the easier way into Brighton Marina, from the East, as the Western Breakwater extends further into the sea to provide shelter from the prevailing wind, making the opening much easier to see.  The visitors’ area was disguised by dredging vessels, so by chance we took a berth at the far end, away from the building work and the hubbub of entertainments.

After a little rest and a quick ‘happy hour’ tidy up I received two lovely ladies for a brief tour and visit, who then took the crew off along the Undercliff walk for fish and chips in Rottingdean.  Sadly the chippy was closed, so after a refreshing thirst quencher and quick bus ride back, they were treated to an excellent Italian supper in Zizzi on the marina instead.